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Trump administration moves to expand authority for rapid deportations

The move would broadly expand "expedited removal" to undocumented immigrants who can't prove they were in the U.S. continuously for two years or more.
Image: An immigrant who entered the United States illegally is deported on a flight to El Salvador byImmigration and Customs Enforcement in Houston on Nov. 16, 2018.
An immigrant who entered the United States illegally is deported to El Salvador last year by Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Houston. David J. Phillip / AP file

The Trump administration moved Monday to broadly expand its ability to quickly deport undocumented immigrants anywhere in the United States who cannot prove they have been in the country continuously for two years or more.

The Department of Homeland Security will publish a notice in the Federal Register on Tuesday, set to be effective immediately, aiming to expand “expedited removal,” which would allow authorities to detain and deport immigrants more quickly without a hearing before an immigration judge. A unpublished version of the notice was released by DHS on Monday.

Since 2004, the policy allowed for immigration authorities to use the expedited removal process for unauthorized immigrants caught within 100 miles of a U.S. land border and arrested within 14 days of arrival.

The new notice would expand that to all unauthorized immigrants anywhere in the U.S. and says they would have to show “to the satisfaction of an immigration officer, that they have been physically present in the United States continuously” for two years or more.

Expedited removal was first established by statute in 1996.

“The effect of that change will be to enhance national security and public safety — while reducing government costs — by facilitating prompt immigration determinations,” the department said in an unpublished version of the notice released Monday on the Federal Register.

The department added that the notice would allow it to “address more effectively and efficiently” the number of unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. and ensure “prompt removal from the country.”

The Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Sarah Pierce, a policy analyst for the Migration Policy Institute, said the administration was expanding expedited removal “to its fullest capacity” under the 1996 statute.

“This is the most significant expansion of expedited removal since it was created,” she said.

The notice raised concerns that immigrants could be denied due process and that it would be “extremely difficult” for them to prove they had resided in the U.S. for more than two years under the new policy, according to Pierce.

“The onus is on the immigrant” to prove continuous presence in the U.S., she said, adding the language of the notice appeared to give much discretion to the immigration officer regarding how much of an opportunity to present evidence would be given and how much evidence would be needed.

Without the ability to go before an immigration judge, immigrants would not get the opportunity to apply for forms of relief from removal that they may be entitled to, Pierce added.

"Individual subject to this regulation will just be detained and deported within a few days," she said.

The American Civil Liberties Union said in a statement Monday that it would quickly mount a legal challenge to the regulation.

“Under this unlawful plan, immigrants who have lived here for years would be deported with less due process than people get in traffic court,” Omar Jadwat, director of the Immigrants’ Rights Project at ACLU, said in the statement. “We will sue to end this policy quickly.”

Last week, the administration announced a rule barring migrants at the southern border who pass through another country and do not seek asylum there first from being eligible for the protection in the U.S., a sweeping change to asylum policy. That rule was quickly challenged by the ACLU and other civil rights and legal advocacy groups.

In the past, federal judges have blocked other attempts by the administration to change the asylum policy, most notably the president's effort to deny the protection to anyone who did not enter the U.S. through a legal port of entry.